Masontown

Mike Jones/Observer-Reporter

Masontown Borough Municipal Center in Fayette County

A settlement has been reached in the federal suit filed by the president of Masontown Borough Council against the borough, its mayor and police chief.

John and Rose Stoffa, who filed the suit, will receive $20,001, plus reasonable attorney fees and costs to be determined by a judge under the terms of the settlement, according to court paperwork filed in the case.

The Stoffas alleged they were targeted by borough officials and police after John Stoffa voiced his concerns at public meetings over what he claimed were corrupt and unethical actions by police and other officials.

“We are happy that we have a judgment in our favor and feel vindicated,” John Stoffa said. “We hope it sends a clear message to law enforcement that they cannot retaliate against people who criticize and attempt to expose their misconduct and unethical behavior.”

The suit named Councilman Harry Lee, former council member Frank McLaughlin, Mayor Toni Petrus, Chief Joe Ryan and Masontown police Officers Alexis Metros and Thomas O’Barto as defendants.

Court documents indicate that the settlement cannot be construed as an admission of liability by the defendants, nor as an admission that the Stoffas have suffered any damages as a result of the allegations in the case.

John Stoffa said the lawsuit was a long process, but said he and his wife were thankful for their attorney, Charity Grimm Krupa.

Since the suit was filed nearly one year ago, Cumberland Township, Officer Tony Gismondi and the Cumberland Township Police Department were terminated from the suit in October.

The lawsuit claimed Masontown police searched Stoffa’s home last January and seized various items, including computers, cellphones and photographs, as retribution for his criticisms of the police department. Police obtained a search warrant based on allegations that they received reports Stoffa was circulating obscene photos of a nude woman for political purposes.

“They illegally used that search warrant and made false statements to secure the search warrant,” Krupa told the Observer-Reporter after the suit was filed.

Attorneys for Masontown officials declined comment in the case. Krupa did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

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